Oh. My. Dog.

I just got word that that pompous pimple, David Berlinski, is going to be at the Maclaurin Institute on the University of Minnesota campus on 17 April. Fortunately for me, I just this morning agreed to do an interview on Second Life on that date, so I have an excuse to avoid the supercilious snot. You might want to quickly find some reason to skip the event — is that your evening to wash your hair? Or take the dog for walkies (it might be worth it to get a dog for just that reason) — because there is no one else affiliated with the Discovery Institute more likely to infuriate you with his self-satisfied dimness.


  1. Torbjörn Larsson, OM says

    Sure, Berlinski is a bombastic bastard. But that is no reason to degrade natural bodily fluids (snot) with such a degrading comparison.

    I throughly enjoy the fact that if other historians of math happens to sum up his work, it will be as simple as “math phony”.

  2. Torbjörn Larsson, OM says

    Sure, Berlinski is a bombastic bastard. But that is no reason to degrade natural bodily fluids (snot) with such a degrading comparison.

    I throughly enjoy the fact that if other historians of math happens to sum up his work, it will be as simple as “math phony”.

  3. says

    I was going to say, has UM totally screwed up? Why would they bring in such a smarmy buffoon?

    Then I read your link, and saw that it’s a Xian organization bringing in BS. Berlinski has to sell his book, after all, and if the University has more sense than to book Berlinski, Xians groups do not.

    Well, I’ll be ignoring Berlinski that night, so I can’t come. True, I’m over a thousand miles away, too, but I’d rather use my first excuse.

    Glen D

  4. says

    I’ll be eating paste that evening. It should be much more enlightening than anything Berlinski has to say.

  5. raven says

    Does Minnesota have a creo problem? Olson, the science teacher who believes the earth is 6,000 years old and that the US constitution isn’t our law. Other comments here and there. Now Berlinkski.

    Not my image of Minnesota but it has been a while.

  6. Blaidd Drwg says

    Well, I HAD planned to finally get around to filing my taxes that night, but….

  7. says

    This is the description from the MacLaurin Institute’s home page:

    Bringing God into the marketplace of ideas by
    communicating the Christian worldview with its transforming potential.

    Isn’t it about time we started demanding evidence that Christians, on the whole, are any better or worse than any other group (other than being smugly morally patronising)? If there isn’t any, then where do they get off rambling nonsense like ‘transforming potential’?

  8. zadig says

    When are you going to be posting the details (time, SL url, etc.) of the Second Life interview? I may not have a first life, but I definitely have a second one.

    Seriously, though, I’ll plan on being in the audience up there, if you’ll just tell us more.


  9. says

    The family had dogs when I was growing up. I haven’t had one of my own since, but this does sound like a good reason to get one. Mostly as insurance, however, since I live in France–which probably means I’m safe–but I’m not at all sure what the Français is for “Cretinist! Eat!”? And since there aren’t very many IDiots around here, I think the dog would probably starve.

    But it does occur to me there’s quite a bit of homopatheic woo, so maybe with careful training the dog would be well-fed. Hum…

  10. Miles says

    I can’t believe science folks would miss out on an opportunity to engage a super-zilla wingnut like Berlinski. According to one of the Expelled writers (@ATBC) Berlinksi was a key “science” tutor for Ben Stein’s creo propaganda piece.

    Not only would I go to hear him speak I’d come with a truck load of questions for him to answer.

    I can’t believe you guys aren’t excited about playing the pin the pseudoscience tail on the creationist donkey game.


  11. MAJeff, OM says

    Does Minnesota have a creo problem?

    Yes, pretty much anywhere outside the 494-694 ring (and some chunks inside it). There are occasional pockets of enlightenment, but I, for one, am thrilled to have escaped “Greater” Minnesota and will only return to visit my parents.

  12. Bill says

    I’m curious, Dr. Myers.
    I just started reading your blog via the whole “Expelled” buzz. I was happy to see other people who feel as strongly as I do concerning creationists and IDs. I view these people as religious zealots equal to if not more dangerous then any other religious terrorist.
    Now, I don’t know this Berlinski, his work or your personal history with him, but I have to ask is it necessary or even wise to resort to such childish name-calling? These people are deluded but they are by no means stupid. They are infected by a mental illness that blinds them to reason and actively discourages rational thought, but they are not necessarily idiots. They are dangerous and they are fighting for what they believe. I’m not defending them. I’m just trying to point out that they are not playing games and the stakes are extremely high. Resorting to such childish behavior will only provide them with ammunition.
    Should we not at all times maintain a professional and dignified manner, especially in the public eye? By falling to emotional or immature responses we fall right into their trap. They are experts at the use of emotion to manipulate and control. They can now quite easily point to this blog (and especially many of the comments) as “proof” that the scientific community is nothing more then intellectual elitists who do nothing more then mock and ridicule those who don’t follow the majority. Which, I think, was the whole point of “Expelled”…
    In a debate, direct, personal attacks can be perceived as the final, desperate act of a person who has lost the argument.

  13. Janine, ID says

    In a debate, direct, personal attacks can be perceived as the final, desperate act of a person who has lost the argument.

    Posted by: Bill

    Bill, there is no debate to be had. All of the facts and backing theories are on one side. Guess which one. If that makes one an “elitist”, well, so be it. But the funny thing about this type of elitism is that anyone could be part of the elite.

  14. Graculus says

    I’m not at all sure what the Français is for “Cretinist! Eat!”?

    Well, we train our dog in German, even though the last time his ancestors saw Rottweil was about 50+ generations ago…


  15. Bill says

    I understand where all of the evidence lies; however, there is a debate. You may not consider it so since we have direct observation, facts, and pure logic on our side and they have nothing but fanaticism, rhetoric, dogma, and superstition on theirs, but there is a debate. And the debate is between precisely those things.
    I’ve seen responses like yours. The “they have no leg to stand on therefore there is no debate” statement is not correct. A debate does not require strong evidence for either side of the argument but only two sides to argue. And strong evidence does not guarantee the winner, but only who can argue the most persuasively. Unfortunately, the winner of this debate gets to decide what gets taught to children and thus determine the future of our country and of mankind. The religious are masters at convincing people of the absurd; they’ve been doing it for millennia. They must be fought, tooth and nail and simply pointing at evidence will not enlighten the ignorant.
    To be clear, I applaud Dr. Myers efforts. In fact I will stand up and offer him any support I can give. I just question the use of personal attacks. Even ones that use words as nice as “supercilious”.

  16. skribb says

    P.Z, this might not happen everytime, but last time I heard about an interview in Second Life, it was attacked by a large amount of flying penises blocking the screen for both parties of the interview. Just a heads up so you’ll know what might be comin =P

  17. Wolfhound says

    I know you’re new so can be forgiven but I want to tell you, all friendly-like, that concern trolls (or being concern troll-ish) do NOT go over well here.

  18. Norm says

    His book “A Tour of the Calculus” should go down in history as one of the worst books of all time. I offer this random passage as evidence:

    “Unlike Euclidean geometry, arithmetic rises directly from the wayward human heart, the lub-dub under the physician’s stethoscope or the lover’s ear (sounding very much like the words ‘so soon, it ends’), impossible to hear without a mournful mental echo: 1, 2, 3, 4, …, the doubled sound, that beating heart, those numerical echoes, cohering perfectly for as long as any of us can count.”

    Seriously the whole f–king book is that horrible!

  19. says

    I saw a screening of “Expelled” a few weeks ago in Albuquerque, and was struck by the incredible weirdness of Berlinski’s interviews with Ben Stein at DB’s Paris pad. DB spent the entire interview in a recliner lounge pose – not sitting up, mind you, but with head reclined, gazing up at the ceiling as he pontificated on the Demise of Darwinism.

    Weirdest. Interview. Anywhere.

    Berlinski fairly reeked of arrogance and smarmy condescension. Nothing like PZ, who actually looked at the interviewer, gestured as he spoke, smiled occasionally, etc.


  20. William says

    Yeah, I’d appreciate less jerkiness in dealing with the creationists and other misguided sorts.

    Has anybody here ever changed their mind on something because you got called enough names? For me, this kind of hostility gets in the way of me admitting an error.

  21. Wicked Lad says

    Wolfhound wrote,

    I know you’re new so can be forgiven but I want to tell you, all friendly-like, that concern trolls (or being concern troll-ish) do NOT go over well here.

    I get really tired of this poisoning-the-well tactic. You can call everyone who disagrees with you a troll, and everyone who disagrees with you politely a concern troll, but it’s facile. And if you think someone’s a troll, why do you respond at all? It’s not constructive, and it’s simple-minded name-calling.

  22. Karen says

    William, Berlinski isn’t admitting any errors.

    While the event is in Minnesota, and I’m in California, and besides, I don’t have a dog… I think I’ll go walk my cat.

  23. Avekid says

    Oh, come on! PZ can say whatever he wants — not because he’s PZ, tout court, but because this is *his* blog. If his frustration expresses itself, on his own blog, as insults and name-calling… Well, gosh, isn’t that his prerogative?

    Also, dear concern-trollish types, read up on recent posts about how PZ feels about being cast as “Spokesperson for Science”. That’s not his job, period, so it’s not one he’s going to do better or worse by insulting people who deserve little more than insult.

  24. Steve_C says

    There’s a difference between disagreeing with someone and not liking their “tone”… disagree all you want with the argument, but if you’re here just to whine about the tone, Please Concern Troll Do Fuck Off.


  25. SLC says

    Re Bill

    Mr. Bill admits he is unfamiliar with Dr. Berlinski. Let me provide some information on this pompous jackass. Dr. Berlinski used to claim a PhD degree in Mathematics from Princeton, Un. Unfortunately, he was unmasked and it was found that his PhD from that university was in philosophy. I think that a paragraph written by Richard Dawkins after listening to a presentation by Berlinski is most appropriate.

    “Anyone who denies the evidence for the theory of evolution is either ignorant, stupid, insane, or wicked (but I don’t want to consider that). Berlinski is neither ignorant, stupid, or insane.”

  26. True Bob says

    Bill, you might want to look into “framing” and how this particular community feels about it. Soft-pedalling is not “in” with this crowd. More like “go for jugular”. That’s why you are tagged as a concern troll.

  27. CalGeorge says

    “A Christian study center serving the University of Minnesota community –
    Bringing God into the marketplace of ideas by communicating the Christian worldview with its transforming potential.”

    Transforming potential?

    Is this where people go to transform themselves into idiots?

    Oops, did it again. Screwed up the framing. Rats!

  28. Sue Laris says

    My crazy cousin sent me a bunch of old DVDs of “American Idol” so I’ll be wrapped up that night dubbing over them.

  29. Amit Joshi says

    Pompous pimple, supercilious snot…hey, how bad can this guy be, if he can move PZ to wax almost poetic! :)

  30. says

    Jugular? Jugular? How superficial. We go for the aorta, rip it out, trace it right up to the heart, yank it free, and eat it raw.

  31. says

    The Second Life thing…it’s with a weekly interview show, Virtually Speaking, on Thursday, 17 April, at 6pm Pacific time.

    I presume that’s enough to find it? I’m a novice at this SL stuff.

  32. Sastra says

    Bill #25 wrote:

    To be clear, I applaud Dr. Myers efforts. In fact I will stand up and offer him any support I can give. I just question the use of personal attacks.

    You mentioned in a previous point that you “just started reading this blog,” in which case I can understand why you’re a bit concerned here. If PZ never bothered to debate creationists point-by-point on their science and historical errors, or if the entire argument against Berlinski has consisted of nothing but calling him a “pompous pimple,” it really would be puzzling as to why PZ Myer is so popular.

    But PZ regularly and frequently tears into debate with tooth and nail. And he’s addressed precisely why he considers Berlinski a supercilious snot in great detail. Posts, posts, and more posts. There is a lot of back history behind this brief little entry.

    As for the name-calling, I’m not so sure you’re right about this. You wrote:

    Should we not at all times maintain a professional and dignified manner, especially in the public eye? By falling to emotional or immature responses we fall right into their trap.

    Although this seems reasonable — and plausible — there also appears to be value to occasionally — just from time to time, of course — kicking some butt. Polemics can have its place, because without passion you don’t get very far, long run. If that’s their “trap” it seems to backfire on them more than it helps them.

    Eugenie Scott is always the perfect role model for your approach. She is never angry — not that I’ve seen, anyway. Not enough to lose her implacable civility. But anger — and profanity and emotional and even ‘immature’ responses — can be galvanizing and effective in their own way. PZ is not always on a tear. But when he goes on one, it can pack a punch which beats out the reasonable approach. You have to be good at it, and you have to be careful to not overuse it — lest you get a reputation as a lightweight or a nutcase.

    Here is a favorite quote from HL Menken:

    “The liberation of the human mind has never been furthered by such learned dunderheads; it has been furthered by gay fellows who heaved dead cats into sanctuaries and then went roistering down the highways of the world, proving to all men that doubt, after all, was safe — that the god in the sanctuary was finite in his power, and hence a fraud. One horse-laugh is worth ten thousand syllogisms. It is not only more effective; it is also vastly more intelligent.”

    That doesn’t prove the case, of course, but I don’t think it’s cut and dried either way. I have learned, to my surprise, that people have sometimes been persuaded into reasonable and original thought by some of the strangest things.

  33. Avekid says

    I’ll join in the chorus from another thread: I want to be Sastra when I grow up!

  34. Bill says

    Thank you for the excellent argument. I really liked the Menken quote.
    As I was saying, He who is the most persuasive wins the debate. In this case I see your point. In order to win popular opinion some amount of bombastics are required. Sometimes I forget that few adults actually are.

    I’ve been doing more reading on this Berlinski guy… Wow…
    I especially liked the blog entry: “Berlinski: I can’t believe I’m wasting time on this guy”, very nice. I’m liking you more and more every minute, Dr. Myers.
    However, I think it points out precisely why time should be “wasted” on this guy. Every time this guy speaks unopposed he is spreading dogma, ignorance, and lies in the name of spreading his religious beliefs. The only way to fight him is to be as diligent in discrediting him as he is in his efforts. I’m not saying that it should be Dr. Myers sole responsibility, he still needs time to, you know, be a scientist. But isn’t there anyone who can be there to debunk him?

    And to those who have accused me of being a troll… If that had been my intention, I think I could have incited a lot more emotion in this group with far fewer words… so :p

  35. Holydust says

    If I’d known I could have harassed you for a Second Life interview, Professor, I would have done it a long time ago! :D

    It looks like this person does interviews regularly — it’ll probably be private. I’m pretty sure the chances of being griefed are nil… usually it’s the wingnuts that get griefed, as the /b/tards/Anonymous members who do the griefing aren’t generally into attacking scientists and smart, humble folks.

  36. Avekid says


    There’s a long history of concern-trolling around here so some of us (and I include myself in this category) are on a bit of a hair-trigger about it. My apologies for any assumptions I made about you and your intentions based on your first post — not a very warm welcome and, whatever those assumptions were, you’ve proven them false.

    Enjoy Pharyngula! =)

  37. zadig says

    Thanks for the Second Life info. Virtually Speaking is a good series, and it’s well-run. I have never seen their lectures disrupted by griefers, and I hope I never do. (I’d knock on wood, but that just seems wrong in this community.) But I’ll definitely be there. (SL: zadig infinity)

  38. says

    Bill –

    I think you will also find that if you continue to read this blog (put it in your Feed Reader NOW!) you will be entertained by PZ’s writing and then have the added bonus of reading some great comments. All the best people come here; but very few feel the constant pressure to be “nice.”

  39. Bill says

    Thanks, Avekid.
    No need to apologize. No insult taken. This is an internet blog after all.

    Mike, Thanks. I’m looking forward to back-reading this blog. Yours is looking interesting as well.

    I will be adding this to my daily blog-roll. I hope I can contribute productively in the future. But be warned, although I am not in academia I do consider myself a scientist (comp sci by education). As such, I will always question, even PZ. I’ll just make sure to not be so polite about it in the future. ;)

  40. ice9 says

    I’m still looking for foot soldier cred. I was hoping for a chance to sneak into an “Expelled” showing and snatch the film and put it on You-tube. That didn’t work. What if I attend the speech by this Berlinski chap. I’ll get a big wooden cross and a bad haircut and dress like a virgin. Then I’ll rise to ask a question or two. But what do I ask? Who can feed me the perfect question to put to him?
    Or should I smuggle in a video camera? What would the perfect act of antitheistic Disobedience be?


  41. Rita Bennett says

    For new reader Bill, #20

    “We stand awed at the heights our people have achieved.”

    Posted on: June 12, 2007

    This is PZ being professional and dignified.
    ( I do not know how to make the link for this essay I have bookmarked.)

  42. Janine, ID says

    Bill, I was trying to compose a response but everything I tried turned to absolute drivel. Then I had things to take care of. I admire that fact that you took the time to dig up older posts and read them. It is incredible the number of people who come in, guns firing, and having no idea about the facts. They have not done any background work.

    I will agree that constant name calling is distracting. But it is not pure name calling here. Also, when it comes to debates, I will content that rationalists and secularists are coming in with with bad names pinned on their backs. I am sure you have seen the clips of PZ Myers and Richard Dawkins from Expelled. There is nothing there that could be seen as threatening or overblown. Except in the eyes of the fundamentalist believers who recoil from both of those men’s dislike of religion. Then add the charges that men like these are responsible for The Holocaust. The arguments that people like Mathis use tars their opponents as being evil.

    The worst that a sensible opponent can come up against these charges of evil is to point at the facts and dismiss the charges as ludicrous. And frankly, that gets tiring.

    I do not mind that Myers, Dawkins and other people involved in this struggle will use name calling, that it gets personal. Because it is personal. But if it were merely name calling, there would be no reason to come here. But there is a wealth of material here and plenty of links to even more goods.

    We need to come up with numerous ways to convince people. But ultimately, enough people have to be willing to learn and honest enough to follow the where it leads. The onus is not on this group of people here. It is on all of the general population.

  43. Ian H Spedding FCD says

    I would go but there is some paint that won’t dry if I don’t watch it.

  44. says

    I hadn’t heard of this pimple in question prior to reading his book excerpt in the latest Harper’s Magazine. I swear, Harper’s is starting to go downhill, this is the second article in recent memory that has had a pro-religion, anti-naturalistic slant. The article is chock full ‘o double talk and highfalutin’ words arranged so as to seem to support his claim that “science is a religion”. It’s prose that is carefully crafted to stymie any sort of critical thinking. Reading him is like being handed a big bouquet of roses with a turd in the middle.

  45. says

    PZ Says:

    The Second Life thing…it’s with a weekly interview show, Virtually Speaking, on Thursday, 17 April, at 6pm Pacific time.

    I presume that’s enough to find it? I’m a novice at this SL stuff.

    For SL Veterans, it is sufficient. For newbies, though, that would be difficult. I recommend that anyone not already on SL and that does want to see the interview live, sign up for a free account today, tomorrow, or this weekend. It’ll take time to get oriented (literally, they don’t let you off orientation island until you’ve navigated several training sessions there).

    Be forewarned, as mentioned previously, there are idiots and assholes (I don’t mean ID proponents – they’re called griefers and are likely adolescent punks with nothing better to do) who take great joy tormenting new comers. It is purportedly an adult only site so mature themes abound (aka, the 8 foot penises mentioned, among other things).

    In the environment of SL everything happens in Pacific Time (also listed as SL time). There is a powerful search function and you’d want to search for “Virtually Speaking” – I will and can post what I find, but it may still be meaningless to new comers.

  46. says

    I neglected to put in my SL nom de jeu: JohnB Sands

    Creative, aren’t I….

    (For the record, you don’t have complete control over the last name you choose – but I got close. And forgive my massacre of the French language).


  47. rimpal says

    There is strong evidence that Berlinski is quite a dim bulb. He takes himself seriously. Thinking, probably, that he ould get a sympathetic hearing from Mark Chu-Carroll, DB, replied on a post on Good Math that took his ideas apart. In about a couple of days, Chu-Carroll and most of his readers were taking his ideas apart – like it was a feeding frenzy. I am sure that lively exchange is archived somewhere. DB came out looking like a total twit

  48. Keith Eaton says

    I don’t understand why the pee wee crowd of sychophantic brownnosers hasn’t managed to understand the reticence of pee wee to go to the Berlinski lecture or any of you for that matter.

    It’s simple, opposites repel and thus people with IQ’s less than 100 cannot be in the same hall with a lecturer with a 200 IQ.

    Besides Berlinski has a penchant for eating dookey bird evos for lunch and it’s not a pretty sight.

    pee wee myers, the Buster Keaton of biology.

  49. Norm says


    “Berlinski has a penchant for eating dookey bird.”

    Yes, he is a complete moron! Good call. Er, what’s a dookey bird?

    PS Buster Keaton was a comic genius. So I guess you’re saying PZ is a genius of biology (I’m sure he’d thank you).

  50. szqc says

    Hmmm Buster Keaton (re comment 64).

    Considered by many a genius in his field (some allusions to Michelangelo by a few per good old wikipedia).

    Known in some of his movies for both derring-do stunts and in others for tweaking the knuckleheads of this world in a rather in-your-face and successful fashion.

    Hmm. Not quite the linkage intended (or should that be an unintended pleiotropic effect?).

    Best stick to the Nazi analogies. This also not appropriate but at least they are a bit closer to intent, however stupid that intent may be.

  51. Janine, ID says

    Bill, this Keith Eaton person is someone people can go ahead and mock mercilessly. He is a complete moron who wishes harm for the “evilutionist”. In one thread, he predicted that when the masses see Expelled, they will hunt us down with dogs. A rather unpleasant bloke.

  52. Interrobang says

    He who is the most persuasive wins the debate.

    No female debaters in your world, Bill? How odd, I didn’t think I was actually transsexual…

    Speaking as the house rhetorician (and as a person who thinks PZ uses masterful framing techniques, whether he wants to admit it or not, because framing doesn’t mean lying or soft-pedaling your message, for fuck’s sakes already!), there are more kinds of argumentation than suasion.

    Suasion (that is, trying to swing people over to your side of a debate) isn’t really the point of posts like this; in this case, PZ is speaking for and to a presumably friendly audience, one that’s already on “his side,” so to speak, so there’s really no need for him to talk to us as though we need to be persuaded toward his point of view. He’s making an argument, in this case, to describe and explain his point of view, which is not the same as trying to persuade someone to change their point of view. (Go read up on communication strategies between in-groups and out-groups and get back to me.)

    To use a very strained religious metaphor, sometimes PZ is just preaching to the choir, not evangelising for science. Incidentally, that’s also where I think that embarrassing nit Nisbet falls down — Nisbet seems to think there’s no place for a science communicator to, as I described it, preach to the choir, and that everyone should be involved in actively evangelising. Well, no. Providing a rhetorical “safe space” for those of us already on the same side as PZ is actually a valuable service to the discourse.

    Can anybody tell me, does Nisbet actually get paid for this shit?! If so, why?! Man, I know exactly how Orac feels every time Michael Egnor starts shooting off his mouth — I guess we’re each doomed to have our own personal professional embarrassments.

  53. Polyester Mather D.D. says

    “this Keith Eaton person … wishes harm for the “evilutionist”. In one thread, he predicted that when the masses see Expelled, they will hunt us down with dogs”

    Then let us raise a subscription to send him to the UK, where, though that noble instrument of evolutionary pressure, The Quorn, is now oppressed by a ban on coursing down vermin with horses and dogs, the nanny state has failed to introduce legislation banning anti-evolutionists as objects of sport.

    The tone of the debate might better be improved by mounted pursuit of Eaton than listening to some wannabe Proust in a recliner droning on in an overheated auditorium.

  54. oriole says

    Bill, let me join the others who have welcomed you to Pharyngula, and also echo the apologies of those who have mistaken you for a troll. Since this is probably the most popular science site around, and since PZ does such an excellent job of dismantling ridiculous ID arguments with his deep knowledge of biology and rapier wit, trolls such as William Wallace, who is pretending to be your friend, like to come here pretending to be apostles of civilised discourse and then resort to the most outrageous lies and innuendo in support of their holy war against science.

    That’s why we may tend to have our radar detectors set a little too sharp, and suspect a new commenter who expresses concerns about PZ’s tone to be, well, a concern troll. But you are clearly an intelligent person who is making an honest argument, and your points are worth addressing; I hope you find they have been well-addressed in the responses you have received.

    I would like to add to this discussion some thoughts inspired by PZ’s successful radio debate with Geoffrey Simmons, who wrote the ridiculous book “Billions of Missing Links” (you can read PZ’s account at


    Among numerous uninformed and often frankly ridiculous claims about biology, Simmons asserted in the book and in the debate that we haven’t found any “intermediate form” fossils leading to whales, and no indication of how a blow hole could have evolved. After PZ gave, off the top of his head, the Latinate designations of a number of “intermediate form” fossils, and patiently explained how they show the gradual development of the blow hole, the guy simply repeated his original claims, then cited as his scholarly source some article he had read in Scientific American six months before. To quote PZ, “way to plumb the depths of the scientific literature, Dr Simmons!”

    At this point in the debate, PZ calmly remarked that Simmons’s ignorance of the fossil record is not evidence against evolution. (A classic bon mot, which should be preserved for all posterity.) Now this caused Simmons and the moderator to mount their high horses, accuse PZ of violating the sacred rules of civilised discourse, etc. But as PZ noted afterward, it’s important to point out forcefully at every opportunity that fake science does not stand on an equal footing with real science, even if that causes real scientists to lose points for politeness.

    You see, if in a debate the real scientist says something like “I respectfully disagree with my esteemed colleague, Dr. X, who I think may have made a slight error by accidentally overlooking THOUSANDS of fossils, radioactive dating, molecular biology, etc.”, the non-scientist audience’s eyes will glaze over, and then they will throw up their hands and say, “Gee, I guess it’s true that the experts disagree, so I suppose the only fair thing to do is teach BOTH SIDES of the debate.” And then the terrorists (sorry, I mean the creationists) win.

    On the other hand, if the real scientist says, “ID is crackpot fake science which can only be believed by people who are ignorant, stupid or insane”, then the non-scientists may well think “Gee, those scientists are awfully AGGRESSIVE”, but at least we get the message across that ID IS NOT SCIENCE, and therefore SHOULD NOT BE TAUGHT IN SCIENCE CLASS.

    So I would say the typical Pharyngula point of view on this matter is that if the price we have to pay to make sure that science classes teach science is that people think we’re ill-mannered, we’re prepared to pay that price.

  55. Michael X says

    Thank you for pointing out that comparing someone to Buster Keaton is not an insult. The man was a masterful genius of the highest order. I could only dream to someday to be insulted with a comparison to Keaton.

    Bill, along with oriole, et al, allow me to welcome you as well. I’ve found that while rough, many commenters here tend to be the sharpest around and best to contend with. So that said, I look forward to disagreeing with you someday! Welcome.

  56. rimpal says


    In your case books or no books, it wouldn’t matter. If you read Berlinski you brains must already be fried!

  57. szqc says

    Michael X (#71)

    back at you sir – I’ve appreciated your perspective on how spin and publicity does and does not work in the threads as well (though unlike you I am not a media/film pro, just a Keaton fan – and a hat tip to the other commenters who got their similar thoughts about the Keaton analogy in before me)

  58. oriole says

    Thanks for telling us about “the many books Berlinski has published”, Rangoonian. (comment #72) I always wondered how Berlinski could get such crap into bookstores and now I know; he doesn’t just write that drivel, he actually publishes it himself! And to think Dawkins has to go to the trouble of getting a publishing house to publish his books for him.

    Incidentally, if you get tired of looking for non-existent books, you may want to while away some time looking for logic in Berlinski’s ravings; it’s an equally fruitless search, but if you have an open mind, you might learn something from the exercise.

  59. says

    Bill, this Keith Eaton person is someone people can go ahead and mock mercilessly. He is a complete moron who wishes harm for the “evilutionist”. In one thread, he predicted that when the masses see Expelled, they will hunt us down with dogs. A rather unpleasant bloke.

    Janine, in Panda’s Thumb, he claims to have been a former Fortune 500 executive, too.

  60. bullet says


    Calling someone else supercilious in the same post as admitting to doing an interview in Second Life is a bit of the pot and kettle routine, isn’t it?

  61. Janine, ID says

    Stanton, what you said about Keith Eaton could be true but it still would not prove my points false. Thank you for the information. It is humorous.

  62. Hematite says

    At the risk of me too-ism, I chuckle at the thought of comparison to Buster Keaton being an insult. Several years ago I was lucky enough to see his film The General restored on the big screen at a film festival. I have never been more pleasantly surprised by a movie. Keaton has the slapstick athleticism of Jackie Chan, and also co-directed and worked on the screen adaptation of the movie. The General is considered by some to be one of the best movies of all time (see Wikipedia if you care about details).

    It’s akin calling someone a mere scribbler, like that Da Vinci fellow.

  63. says

    It’s not that I’m trying to prove your points false, but, the way that he made this boast (something about wrangling egotistical computer programmer nerds) makes me suspicious. I mean, why would a former Fortune 500 executive waste his time making inane threats so vulgar so as to be childish to “evolanders” and “evilutionists”? But, on the other hand, I once saw a bum in the streets of downtown Long Beach (California) who I was told used to be a successful president of one of the local banks, but due to stress, quit his job in order to become a homeless person.

  64. jayackroyd says


    Sorry I missed this thread until now. I’m the host of the Virtually Speaking SL interview series. Someone posted the SLURL above, but here it is anyway:


    It generally takes place every Thursday at 6pm Pacific/SLT. This week’s guest is Greg Mitchell, talking about his book of collected Editor and Publisher columns about the Iraq invasion and occupation. Next week, Jay Rosen of NYU and PressThink.org and on the 24th, Glenn Greenwald, promoting his new book.

    If you don’t have an account, and want to just see the PZ interview, you can sign up for a free account at http://www.secondlife.com. SL has a daunting interface, but the regular attendees are very newbie friendly and will be happy to help.

    I have to shout out to Jesus’ General, who egged me into asking PZ if he’d come on. The General will be at the interview.

    People with questions can email me at jay@ackroyd.org, or IM Jimbo Hoyer inworld.

  65. Kseniya says

    Buster Keaton was amazing. He did his own stunts, too. I love his stuff.

    Keith “Keaton” Eaton, however, though he also does his own stunts, simply does not produce any quality work whatsoever.

  66. Kseniya says

    Seriously, I do think it’s time to ignore K. Eaton. He’s showing signs of being unwell.